Taking the heat … or not

Come on man, everybody’s doing it.

No, this week’s column isn’t about the dos and don’ts of drugs and alcohol reminiscent of your DARE class from over a decade ago.

In fact, the thing I am talking about is harder to actually do than it is to avoid. And when I say “everybody” is doing it I mean high profile celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna, but more locally maybe even your mom, friend or uncle.

It’s nearing the end of March, which means you have more than likely either given up your New Year’s resolution or, if you want to think more optimistically and you haven’t totally bagged the idea of staying fit in 2006, maybe you’re just now “revising” your initial plan. By “revising” I mean either going from working out or exercising at least three days a week to now maybe popping in your ‘”60 Second Abs” every few days (and that’d be considered a good week).

Yes, there really are workout videos that claim to get you in shape by doing it for only a minute a day. But you wanted a plan where you actually saw results and felt good about yourself afterwards, right?

Maybe it’s just me, but I thought the idea of stretching only came before “real” workouts for sports like soccer or football. I never thought 90 minutes of yoga consisting almost entirely of controlled stretching could make me feel as energized and also as tired as a full basketball practice could.

And just as I never considered cheerleading a real sport (and still don’t), I never really considered yoga a real form of working out. That is, until I tried it for myself.

Let me explain there are many kinds of yoga, and one of the more popular types is called power yoga. In my case, I decided if I was going to experience the art of yoga I was going to go all out, so when a friend suggested we try power yoga, I was all for it.

Power yoga differs from regular yoga because the thermostat in the room where you are practicing is turned up to 90 degrees. The intense temperature mixes with dozens of people sweating makes the room feel above 100 degrees, so it is very important you bring an extra towel and some water, or the chances of you making it out alive are slim to none.

Although many people who do yoga make it more of a lifestyle than a daily or weekly workout (see above: Madge and Gwen), Baptiste Power Yoga along with most yoga studios offer basic classes along with classes where all levels are welcomed.

I did the basic-level class, where there was a mix of beginners along with people who seemed to know all the poses and were a little beyond the beginner level.

I was a bit intimidated in the beginning to start yoga in a city where many people live the yoga-lifestyle. I knew it was something I needed to take seriously if I really wanted it to work, because yoga is not just about the physicality of stretching, but just as importantly about breathing and maintaining a good peace of mind. I knew I should have chosen yoga over basketball in high school gym class because that would have give me some basic fundamental knowledge of the poses. But there was no turning back, even when my friend tried to convince me he would rather not spend his night off basking in his own sweat, it was too late to convince me otherwise.

Our particular class consisted of about 30 people, but it was a late class and for earlier classes the room can hold dozens more. Mats and towels can be rented for a small fee. The basics class is intense yet thorough enough in the explanations for each individual pose.

For additional help other than the one experienced instructor who stays at the front of the room for most of the class, there are other men and woman who walk around the room to help you fix your pose and make it just right so you don’t feel too out of place. I have to admit, one of my favorite poses was what easily has to be the simplest pose in yoga called child’s pose where you sit on the floor on your knees and stretch your arms over your head. This pose was practiced a couple of times after some difficult stretches.

My favorite part of the class, however, was after the 90 minutes and we got to lie down and take in the past hour and a half. This is where I excelled.

My friend and I chose the Baptiste yoga studio on Columbus Avenue because it was voted Best of Boston three years in a row, but for some of Boston’s other top yoga studios just check out the CitySearch Web site for yourself to decide which one appeals to you most. Our class cost $10 with a student discount.

For beginners, they recommend going 10 times in three weeks to really get you started. “60 Second Abs” anyone?

– Emily Unsworth can be reached at [email protected]

Leave a Reply